Dr. Federico Vaca, professor of emergency medicine, has been awarded two grants to study impaired driving among teens. Both grants are from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Motor vehicle crashes have long been the leading cause of death among adolescents, and the grants will enable Vaca and his colleagues to probe this complex phenomenon. With the first grant, a five-year award, Vaca and his team of researchers will examine the life trajectories of adolescents that report impaired driving and/or riding with an impaired driver. They will investigate social and environmental factors that contribute to the development of impaired driving behavior among teens and the impact on adolescent health, employment, and higher education. Their work will not only deepen understanding of these behaviors and their influence on the transition into adulthood but also lay a framework for the development of a comprehensive prevention intervention.
The second grant, a two-year award, will support research into injury-related health disparities of Latino teens who engage in impaired driving and/or ride with an impaired driver. Specifically, Vaca and his team will focus on associations between graduated driver licensing laws, delayed driving licensure, and injury as well as fatal crashes, among Latino teens. They aim to provide new knowledge in health disparities and explore potential limitations of teen driving policies. Study findings will have important implications for prevention programs and policies aimed at reducing teen crashes and saving lives.
In addition to being vice chair of faculty affairs in Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, Vaca holds a secondary appointment in the Yale Child Study Center. Founding director of the DrivSim Lab at Yale, Vaca has focused his research on adolescent development and behaviors that influence the risk of motor vehicle crash morbidity and mortality, as well as health disparities in injury and alcohol use disorders.